Dogs need to be disciplined after a fight, right? Well, not exactly.
Owners whose dogs have instigated or participated in a fight may feel like their dog needs an exercise in good old dog manners 101.
While it’s completely right to start training after a fight, it’s not so easy to tell your dog what to (not) do right after the fight has occurred.
The first thing you need to do is stay calm and end the fight. Not sure how to break up a dog fight?
Read this article and you’ll know exactly what to do next time.
Now the cause of the fighting and the body language are crucial.
Make a mental note to create a training plan afterwards.
Second, you cannot discipline a dog immediately after a fight.
In fact, there are some things you should never do immediately after an incident.
What you are looking for is not a disciplinary method, but rather a training method.
There are a number of reasons why ‘discipline’ does not apply. Luckily I have the solutions.
That’s the third point: we want to train our dogs to behave well in the long term.
Prevention is always better than dealing with the aftermath. If a fight has occurred, take preventive measures from now on and investigate the cause of the fight.
But that might all sound pretty confusing right now, so let’s dive in.
How to discipline dogs after a fight
You discipline dogs after a fight by showing calm behavior when ending the fight and possibly by verbal correction immediately after the fight. Start working on the root cause instead of punishing.
The most important thing when a dog fight occurs is to break it up quickly and calmly.
How you approach this depends on the situation, the cause and the dogs involved.
If a strange dog attacks yours, different measures may be necessary than if your own two dogs are fighting over food or toys.
Do not use physical punishment or touch the canines.
Just use as much force as you need to separate the dogs.
At this stage you can use a verbal cue to correct bad behavior if you have introduced it previously.
However, that is not always appropriate.
If the cause and duration of the fighting are unknown or you don’t know who instigated what, a correction usually has no effect.
But verbal corrections are the only way to discipline your dog right after a fight.
Why is that?
Your dog will not understand being disciplined because he will not associate it with the underlying cause and may instead respond with fear or confusion.
That’s where we get to the big no-go’s.
Things not to do include physical punishment or useless aversive methods immediately after the fight.
It will not achieve anything because it does not address the underlying behavioral problem.
That’s the third point: long-term training instead of disciplining your dog after a fight.
Never physically discipline your dog after a fight, but rather evaluate what happened and why it happened and begin training.
But what should you do instead?
Should I punish my dog after a fight?
Never punish your dog after a fight. You may use correction, but never punishment, as unforeseen consequences may include worsening the unwanted behavior.
Punishment is defined as “severe, rough or disastrous treatment” and has no place in dog training.
If you can determine what happened and are confident it is a training problem, correct your dog with a simple verbal cue.
The first element of a successful correction is timing.
Whatever incentives you add (or remove) should immediately follow the undesirable behavior.
So only apply a quick correction if you catch your dog in the act.
With a well-timed correction you may be able to stop the fight, although the chances are slim if the other dog is the aggressor.
If you see a behavior sheet, which means you know certain actions that trigger unwanted behavior in your dog, you may even be able to stop it beforehand.
However, this does not solve the underlying problem.
Ask yourself if your dog fought over any of these things:
- Self defense
- Attack due to stress or anxiety
- Play fights that escalated
- Resource monitoring
- Food aggression
- Pain caused by medical problems
The solutions and ways to discipline your dog depend greatly on the cause of the fight.
Two dogs fighting in the same house is not as unusual as you might think and if you are unsure what causes it, consult a dog trainer.
If your older dog is attacking your puppy or you’ve brought home a rescue dog, learn more about these specific issues.
What not to do after a dog fight?
After the fight has ended, you should never punish or yell at the dog, but instead start training your dog to prevent another incident.
Consider professional help if you are unsure about your dog’s behavior.
Disciplining your dog after the fight won’t work because the dog is usually unable to connect the dots and instead learns to fear its owner.
You shouldn’t let your guard down after a fight.
That means not allowing your dog access to other dogs around him and separating the two.
Some trainers recommend taking the dogs for a walk after a fight and this may be appropriate under certain circumstances.
Is it normal for dogs to fight sometimes?
No, it is not normal for dogs to fight unless they are fighting playfully or using measured corrections to communicate, which is not considered serious fighting.
Play fights are very common, especially among dogs that know each other and puppies.
You may choose to limit play fighting with an emphasis on obedience training so that you can interrupt your dogs when you see them getting too excited.
In two healthy, well-socialized adult dogs, it is normal to see corrections when someone misbehaves.
If a correction is given and the other dog responds well, then it’s not really a fight.
This can seem quite serious to non-dog people, especially when it comes to truly adult breeds.
What are the signs that a fight is serious?
Hackles, grunting, tense or stiff body, whale eye, engaged resources – all these can indicate that a fight is serious.
If a wound has been inflicted, consider seeking professional help immediately.
Prevent incidents in the future by taking appropriate measures (such as a muzzle, training, socialization and professional help).
Disclaimer: This blog post does not and does not intend to replace veterinary attention. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows signs of illness, call your vet.